Nine Australians are teeing it up this week in the third major of the year, the RICOH Women’s British Open being played at the magnificent Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, England.
Rolex World No. 7 Karrie Webb is leading the strong Australian contingent. Webb is joined by other exempted players Sarah-Jane Smith, Nikki Campbell and Sarah Kemp and amateur Minjee Lee who gained a special exemption into the tournament. WhilstStacey Keating, amateur Su-Hyun Oh, Stephanie Na and Bree Arthur made it through the Final Qualifying on Monday. Arthur did it the hard way, she had to win a seven-way playoff for the final spot, a birdie at the first playoff hole secured her place in the field.
Webb, has a fantastic record in the Open Championship, having won the title three times, 1995, 1997 (when it wasn’t a major) and 2002. The Queenslander is in the first group out on Thursday morning at 6.30am.
Speaking after her Pro-am, the seven time major winner is happy with her preparation,
“Preparation has been good. I played last week at the ISPS Handa European Masters, which was good to start playing in some wind on a fast firm golf course. This week things have been going nicely. The game plan is a little different on some holes because where we’ve been able to bail in the long stuff in the past now it’s really not a great option.”
“The course is in great condition. I think it’s the hardest set up I’ve seen at Birkdale over the four times we’ve been here. The long stuff off the fairways is as thick and penalizing as I’ve seen.”
“My game is pretty good shape, as always I need to trust and believe in what I’m doing. Playing links golf always helps me be creative and play with feel rather than being too technical.” Webb said.
While Webb has a wealth of experience playing in majors, for Campbell it is only her fourth appearance. The 33-year-old has played the majority of her golf in Japan so she has had limited opportunities of teeing it up in the majors.
However, the two time winner in Japan is coming into the tournament full of confidence after her runner-up finish last week at the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters.
Her expectations this week, “I have never made the cut in the British Open, so that obviously would be great. I just want to play well and try to use the experience that I have had in the last couple of majors that I have played.”
“The US Open was the first major cut I made, I just want to keep learning, I mean it is different golf in the majors, so I just want to keep getting better and hopefully improve each time I play in one.” Campbell said on Tuesday.
When asked about what has contributed to her return to form this year, Campbell replied “A few different things, I have changed golf balls, gone from the Pro V1X to Pro V1, I’ve changed clubs, I’ve now got the Ping I25 irons and I love them, I’m going to the gym more, things with my coach (Gary Barter) have started to click more, a lot of different things.”
First thoughts on the Royal Birkdale, “It’s tough, the start is tough, the first three or four holes are brutal and if it the wind blows it going to be really tough. It’s long and it’s very punishing if you are off line.”
The defending champion is the current Rolex World No. 1 Stacy Lewis. Lewis will definitely start favourite having won three times this year already and amassed a Tour-best $1,881,227 while racking up 13 top-10s. Fellow Americans Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie, the season’s first two major winners, should give Lewis a run for her money, hopefully along with the Australians.
Royal Birkdale, once named the No. 1 course in England, will be a true test for the world’s best women’s golfers. It will host The Open Championship in 2017.
Australian golf fans can watch all the action live on Fox Sports 2 starting at 10pm on Thursday evening.
144 players will tee it up Thursday (UK time), after 36 holes the cut will be made. Prizemoney for the Championship is US$3.0 million.